Three Reasons to Memorize Scripture

Over the last year or so, I have given much effort to Bible memorization. In this post, I want to give you three reasons that you should also memorize scripture.

“I have stored up your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”

Psalm 119:11

A major benefit of memorizing scripture is to create resources and safeguards in the battle against sin. The psalmist writes, “I have stored up your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). Memorizing scripture is helpful to this end because it both informs and reminds. While many of us have a fairly clear understanding of what is sin and what is not sin (at least we think we do), that is likely the result of being raised in a culture that has been based on a Christian or biblical ethic. The reality is that those days are quickly fading as secularism strengthens culturally.

Having God’s word stored up in our hearts provides guidance in real time. How helpful would it be to have instant access to the list that Paul calls the “works of the flesh”? In other words, an immediate and fresh list of actions/activities in which the Christian should not engage. For example, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” (Galatian 5:19-21, ESV). Likewise, how valuable do you think it would be to have a list of the fruit of the Spirit as a reminder in any situation how godly people respond? Here’s that list: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

Another reason to memorize scripture is to know God better. God has revealed himself through the Bible, thus it makes sense that if we want to know God better we should know his word better. Memorization is a great way to get to know God’s character and heart better. Following are some good options for memorization:

“Bless the Lord, O my soul,

 and forget not all his benefits,

who forgives all your iniquity,

 who heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the pit,

 who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

who satisfies you with good

 so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

Psalm 103:2-5 ESV

The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.

Nahum 1:7 ESV

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10 ESV

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

John 14:27 ESV

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Philippians 2:5-8 ESV

Finally, Paul mentions renewing the mind as one of the critical steps of sanctification for the Christian (Ephesians 4:23). In his letter to the Philippians, Paul provides some details of the things upon which we should give our thoughts: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8 ESV).

Memorizing scripture is a wonderful way to be “renewed in the spirit of our minds,” to know God better, and to guard our hearts against sin.

In a separate post, I will recommend a helpful tool for memorization.

I’ll do that tomorrow …

Do not boast about tomorrow,
    for you do not know what a day may bring.

Proverbs 27:1

Benjamin Franklin is credited with saying, “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” The intent of this quip seems to be time management, and not getting behind by delaying what can be done now.

I think the warning of Proverbs 27:1 is something a little different, though. It seems to be aiming less for time management and more for being aware of the twists and turns of life. “Do not boast” suggests a certain measure of assurance, which the following clause – “you do not know what a day may bring” – warns against.

One clear conclusion the reader should come to is that he/she is not nearly as much in control as he or she might assume.

The New Testament has something to say to this point, as well. See James 3:13-16.

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit” – yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.”

James 3:13-16 ESV

Obviously, some things are more critical than other things; and leaving certain things undone – even forever – will not matter in the big picture. But, critical things should not be left undone or unsaid until later … because later may not come. Some examples of things that shouldn’t be left undone until tomorrow may include, among other things, repenting of sin, complimenting a spouse, encouraging a friend, or sharing the gospel.

Perhaps improving in this area would make a good 2021 goal for all of us.

To My Students: A Gentle Reminder

The typical hubris of a college student may not be more evident than when completing course evaluations. An example of this is a criticism that says something like, “I don’t like [a specific assignment] and it is a waste of time that could be better spent doing [a type of assignment I prefer].” Because course evaluations are anonymous, professors have no way of interacting with the student to better understand their issue(s), or to help the student better understand the teacher’s process in the classroom.

A few questions, might help my students understand my process.

A. Do you have any idea of the purpose of that assignment you think is a waste of time? Likely, you don’t because you never asked for an appointment to discuss the pros/cons of such an assignment. Understanding the purpose of an unpleasant task may give it a measure of meaning, and thus make it more tolerable. For my part, perhaps I can help by explaining better the purpose of each of the assignments in future classes.

B. Have you considered that a variety of assignment types are offered to connect with a variety of learning styles/preferences? I often note things that I don’t particularly enjoy without giving consideration of how that thing affects others. Are you like me?

C. Have you considered that the professor may know just a bit more about the process, and that practicing patience may reveal a positive value from the assignment? I’ve noticed in both my kids and my students an immediate negative reaction to assignments/tasks they don’t like for whatever reason. I’ve also noticed that very often the immediate negative reaction prevents them 1) from recognizing that I know more about the process, and 2) from realizing the value of the process.

All of this reminds me of Peter’s interaction with Jesus at the last supper and the subsequent walk to the Garden of Gethsemane (John 13-17). I can see Peter evaluating this event as follows: “It was a waste of time for Jesus to wash our feet. Quite frankly, that time could have been better spent in fellowship.”

Jesus had an outcome in mind. To whit: that the disciples would learn demonstrate love for one another through humble service. To move them toward this outcome, Jesus chose to demonstrate humility and be an example that they should follow, which he explained in John 13:15. Peter didn’t know Jesus’ intention, but thought he knew better. In fact, even after Jesus explained to Peter that he would understand later (vs 7), Peter categorically told Jesus, “You shall never wash my feet” (vs 8). Peter had already made up his mind on this one.

Here’s a closing question to my students: Are you too much like Peter when you walk into the classroom? In other words, do you quickly evaluate the value of an assignment (whether that be related to the content or the type of assignment) without understanding the big picture? If the answer is yes, then you are not getting the most value you can get from your investment in an education.

Based on seeing this type of scenario many times, my suggestion is to slow down. Before becoming critical about this or that type of assignment, go through the process. The outcome or results will likely be better than you anticipated.

It’s Thursday, but Sunday’s Coming

The title of this post is a spin-off of S. M. Lockridge’s sermon “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.” In that sermon, Pastor Lockridge is encouraging those who are discouraged by the events surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion to look forward to Sunday. Because on Sunday, everything is different. In this post, I also want to challenge you to look toward Sunday, but for a different reason. But, before looking forward, let’s look backward.

How was church yesterday? is a common Monday morning question among Christian friends who attend different churches. Typically, what is meant by this question relates to how much that particular individual enjoyed his or her morning at church. It may solicit an evaluation of the sermon, the music, the crowd size, the fellowship, or even the temperature in the building.

I want to look at the question from a different angle. How was church yesterday (or last Sunday) for the visitor who didn’t know anybody there? The new person in town who was invited by the highway billboard that promised “A welcoming and friendly atmosphere.” The lonely person who responded to the 30-second television advertisement with b-roll clips of people happily engaged with others as the soothing voice described the warm fellowship that happens at your church. The one who found your church on a Google search. A Google search done not so much out of interest, but desperation because his/her life is caving in?

Regarding the experience of visitors many church consultants think in terms of convenience. Here’s a list of focus points provided by Jayson D. Bradley (sponsored by Pushpay):

  1. Signage
  2. Presentation software
  3. Giving software
  4. Service planning software
  5. A plan for capturing visitor’s contact information.

All of those certainly have value. However, that list has a glaring deficiency. What is missing? The personal touch from real people. And here, I don’t mean the happy people dressed in logo shirts standing next to the entrance. I mean regular members … the people who show up week after week, but aren’t on the Impressions Team. The regular people.

Let’s go back to that visitor’s experience at your church. Did that person feel the warmth that others describe as the normal experience at church? Did anyone express a genuine interest in that person? Or, did you pass them in the hallway as you raced to see your friends? This scene is all too common in churches today. Friends huddled together, fellowshipping with each other as visitors try to find their way in this new environment. Sometimes those visitors are committed Christians who are seeking a new church and basically know the lay of the land. In other cases, the new person may be uninitiated in all things church and are simply looking for God. If that person wanders into your church, what will they experience? Will they walk away saying, “No one was interested in me.”

It’s Thursday, but Sunday’s coming. Looking toward Sunday: How can you help visitors experience what the advertisements say they will find at church? People – even “uninteresting” people – are interesting … if you slow down and talk with them. Everybody has a story. Who – that you didn’t already know – did you initiate a meaningful conversation with in the last month?

This Sunday, will you commit to finding someone you don’t know and start a conversation with them? I don’t mean the “Hi! My name is Craig, it’s nice to have you today” then spin on my heels and walk-away conversation. I mean the conversation that attempts to know them in some meaningful way. The conversation that recognizes them as people, not as a cog in the evangelical church wheel.

You can’t have a conversation about Jesus unless … you have a conversation. #TalkToSomeoneThisSunday

You asked: How did Jesus identify Joseph?

I received the following inquiry.

We had a discussion in Sunday School about what Jesus called Joseph. We know that he called Mary Mother, but we don’t think he called Joseph Father. We think he just used Father when he was talking to/about God. What do you think?

My response:

Here are my thoughts regarding your question. Pass it around if you like, but remember my word isn’t the last word. I simply submit to you my thoughts.

If the class doesn’t think Jesus called Joseph father, how did He address him? Were there any suggestions? I can only guess that this question stems from one of two things: Jesus’ statement in Matthew 23:9, or a belief that Joseph was somehow less than a “real” father to Jesus since there wasn’t a genuine biological connection. (I reject both.)

Though we have no record of Jesus ever addressing Joseph at all, I believe it is safe to “assume” that Jesus addressed him in the manner that was appropriate and respectful. For Jesus would certainly follow the 6th Mosaic command to honor father and mother (Ex. 20:12).

We must also remember that while Joseph was not the physical father of Jesus, he certainly was Jesus’ legal father and he functioned as both legal and physical father in all normal aspects of fatherhood apart from conception.

We have no grounds to assume that there was any type of sibling rivalry which is often the case today in “step-parent/step-child” relationships. Neither do I have reason to believe that Jesus ever said, “I don’t have to do that, you’re not my father!” or that Joseph ever said something like, “If you were my child, I’d . . . ” I say this because I believe Jesus treated Joseph exactly like a biological father should be treated according to Mosaic law – with honor. Granted, I’m arguing from silence here, but from the other aspects of Jesus’ life and personal relationships, I think it is safe to draw such conclusions.

So, how did other children respectfully address the man to whom their mother was married? The only thing we see in the New Testament for this relationship is the word father. In the New Testament the only Greek word used for this person is “PATER”. There are NO exceptions regardless of who is speaking, Jesus or “regular” people.

I think there are two important issues to pursue so that we can understand this question: the particular context of the “prohibition” and Jesus’ acceptance or rejection of the use of the word “father” elsewhere in the Scripture.

First, let’s deal with the latter. Immediately, Matthew 8:21 comes to mind. In this passage Jesus is dealing with a certain scribe about the COST of true discipleship, a small part of the cost being “leaving everything behind.” Then another of the disciples interrupted by saying, “First, let me go bury my father.” Jesus’ response was not, “Don’t address anyone on earth as father!” Why? Because the context and issue at hand was different than that in Matthew 23.

Also in Matthew 15:4-6 we see Jesus himself quoting the commands which had been penned by God and brought down from Sinai by Moses: “Honor your father and your mother; and He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.” In this case Jesus is rebuking those who had abused their responsibility toward their parents, thus breaking the command. If, as some assume from His statements in Matthew 23, we should never refer to our male parent as father, why did Jesus not CORRECT rather than PROTECT what Moses delivered? He couldn’t because there isn’t anything intrinsically wrong with addressing the man married to your mother (whether you are his physical descendant or not) as “father.” Family relationships are not at stake in Matthew 23.

If family relationships are not at stake in Matthew 23, then what is going on? Jesus is giving a scathing assessment of the religious leaders of the day. He summarizes their offenses in verse 5, “All their works they do to be seen by men.” In other words, they are hypocrites seeking vain glory and honor from those over whom they have charge. They are seeking titles of power and prominence in this world.

Notice the three titles he forbids: rabbi/teacher, father, leader. All of these could be considered “power positions” in this context which are NOT forbidden elsewhere in Scripture. In fact, the writers of Scripture use them in a positive sense. For example, Paul writes to the Ephesians that “teachers” were given to the body for her edification. As mentioned above, Jesus positively quotes the 6th command which identifies the male parent as “father”.

Jesus is trying to underscore for the multitudes and disciples the distinction between true religious faith and religious “power brokering.” Jesus says: “You are all brethren (vs. 8).” “He who is greatest among you shall be your servant (vs. 11).” “He who humbles himself shall be exalted (vs. 12).” He is highlighting the abusive power system that was in place and exhorting the people to breakout of such by recognizing their teacher, leader and father who comes from heaven. Those whom they were currently following were certainly not from heaven.

If we understand this prohibition in this manner, then we can easily reconcile both Jesus’ and other NT writers’ positive use of these terms with Jesus’ command not to use them in Matthew 23.

The application for us today is very real. Many men and women fill positions of church leadership as religious power brokers. In many cases there is no difference between our day and Jesus’. Therefore we should receive Jesus’ warning not to follow in the footsteps of those who abuse their position for the purpose of being seen by men. Neither should we submit to such phonies.

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